Showing posts with label Executions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Executions. Show all posts

April 30, 2019

Our Ally Saudi Arabia Held A Mass Execution Beheading 37 men




                                         
Saudi Executions




(Beirut,) – Saudi Arabia’s government announced the mass execution of 37 men on April 23, 2019 in various parts of the country, Human Rights Watch said today. At least 33 of the 37 were from the country’s minority Shia community and had been convicted following unfair trials for various alleged crimes, including protest-related offenses, espionage, and terrorism. The mass execution was the largest since January 2016, when Saudi Arabia executed 47 men for terrorism offenses.

The Specialized Criminal Court convicted 25 of the 37 men in two mass trials, known as the “Qatif 24 case” and the “Iran spy case,” both of which included allegations that authorities extracted confessions through torture. One of the executed Sunni men received the harshest punishment under Islamic law, which includes beheading and public display of the beheaded corpse (salb). With this mass execution, Saudi Arabia carried out over 100 executions so far in 2019, including 40 for drug offenses, a much higher rate than previous years.

“Saudi authorities will inevitably characterize those executed as terrorists and dangerous criminals, but the reality is that Saudi courts are largely devoid of any due process and many of those executed were condemned based solely on confessions they credibly say were coerced,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The death penalty is never the answer to crimes and executing prisoners en masse shows that the current Saudi leadership has little interest in improving the country’s dismal human rights record.”

The official Saudi Press Agency stated that authorities executed the 37 “for their adoption of terrorist and extremist thinking, forming terrorism cells to sow corruption and disrupt security, spread chaos, incite sectarian discord, harm peace and social security, and attack police centers using explosive bombs.” The statement said the executions took place in various regions, including Riyadh, Mecca, Medina, Al-Qassim, Asir, and Eastern Province.

Fourteen of the men who were among the defendants in the Qatif 24 casewere from that Shia-majority area. The Specialized Criminal Court convicted them on protest-related crimes, and some faced charges of violence including targeting police patrols or police stations with guns and Molotov cocktails. Saudi media have described the 24 men as members of a “terrorism cell” that carried out over 50 armed attacks targeting security forces that killed an unspecified number of them and injured dozens.

The court convicted nearly all defendants based on confessions they later repudiated in court, saying the authorities had tortured them. The court sentenced 14 of the defendants to death in June 2016, and an appeals court upheld the verdict in May 2017. The court sentenced nine others to prison terms of between three and 15 years and exonerated one defendant.

Qatif 24 defendants executed on April 23 include Mujtaba al-Sweikat, whom authorities arrested on August 12, 2012, as he was trying to board a plane bound for the United States to attend Western Michigan University, and Munir al-Adam, who Saudi activists say lost hearing in one ear following beatings by interrogators.

Eleven of the executed men were part of the Iran spy case, which involved 32 defendants. They were accused of offenses constituting “high treason,” including meeting with Iranian “intelligence agents” and passing them confidential military information and background information on Shia communities in Mecca, Medina, and Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. Authorities detained 17 people on March 16, 2013, 14 others later in 2013, and one in 2014, but did not bring them to trial until early 2016.

In addition to espionage, prosecutors in the Iran spy case also brought charges that do not represent recognizable crimes, including “supporting demonstrations,” “distorting the reputation of the kingdom,” and attempting to “spread the Shia confession” in Saudi Arabia. Mohammad Abd al-Ghani Attiyah, who was among the 37 men executed, faced these charges as well as “planning with an Iranian intelligence element… to establish a company to spread Shia activities in [Eastern Province].”

Taha al-Haji, a Saudi lawyer who represented a group of the “Iran spy case” defendants until March 2016, told Human Rights Watch that authorities held the men incommunicado for three months before allowing phone calls and visits with family members. The trial resulted in death sentences against 15 of the defendants. Saudi activists familiar with the cases told Human Rights Watch that families of the executed men were not told of the executions in advance.

Human Rights Watch analyzed 10 trial judgments that the Specialized Criminal Court handed down between 2013 and 2016 against men and children accused of protest-related crimes following popular demonstrations by members of the Shia minority in 2011 and 2012 in Eastern Province towns. In nearly all these judgments, defendants had retracted their confessions, saying they were coerced in circumstances that in some cases amounted to torture, including beatings and prolonged solitary confinement.

The court rejected all torture allegations without investigating the claims. It ignored defendants’ requests for video footage from the prison that they said would show them being tortured, and to summon interrogators as witnesses to describe how the confessions were obtained.

International standards, including the Arab Charter on Human Rights, ratified by Saudi Arabia, require countries that retain the death penalty to use it only for the “most serious crimes,” and in exceptional circumstances, following a judgment by a competent court. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world and applies the death penalty to a range of offenses that do not constitute “most serious crimes,” including drug offenses.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all countries and under all circumstances. Capital punishment is unique in its cruelty and finality, and it is inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error.

Most recently in 2018, the United Nations General Assembly called on countries to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, progressively restrict the practice, and reduce the offenses for which it might be imposed, all with the view toward its eventual abolition. Then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all countries in 2013 to abolish the death penalty.

“Mass executions are not the mark of a ‘reformist’ government, but rather one marked by capricious, autocratic rule,” Page said.

July 20, 2018

Gay Panic Defense Excuses Did Not Prevent The Needle to End His Life For Killing a Gay Young man




Robert Van Hook, 58, was executed by lethal injection today in Ohio for the brutal 1985 murder of gay man David Self.
The state of Ohio today executed Robert Van Hook, 58, convicted of killing David Self in 1985, who earlier this year tried to use the gay panic defense to escape the death penalty, according to a report by LGBTQ Nation.
Van Hook died by lethal injection at 10 a.m. today (Wednesday, July 18). He is the 56th person sentenced to death in Ohio since the state legalized the death penalty in 1999.
David Self was 25 when he was murdered by Robert Van Hook in 1985. Read this tribute to David, written in August 2014 by his close friend, Troy Lynch.
Van Hook never claimed he did not kill Self, but that he had a difficult childhood that included sexual abuse and undiagnosed mental illness. He tried for years to get his sentenced overturned by claiming that his trial lawyers were incompetent, and earlier this year he begged the Ohio Parole Board for clemency, telling board members that he had been suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder and snapped when Self-made sexual advances toward him.
Nobody bought it. The Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office called Van Hook’s claim “cynical,” writing in a filing that referred to Van Hook’s admission that he had been robbing gay men since he was 15 that he “posed as a gay; he frequented bars that were gay and he preyed on vulnerable victims who were gay.”
Van Hook met Self, then 25, in a gay bar in Cincinnati and after talking for a few hours, the two went back to Self’s apartment. Once they were there, Van Hook strangled self, then stabbed him several times in the neck before cutting open his abdomen and stabbing his internal organs.
When Self was found by a neighbor, he had been nearly disemboweled and Van Hook had left a cigarette butt and a paring knife in his abdominal cavity. Van Hook then stole a leather jacket and some necklaces and fled to Florida where he was arrested and then confessed to the murder.

April 7, 2016

2015 Tops Executions Since 1989, Find the Nations Here



                                                                        


According to Amnesty International, the British human rights group, 2015 had the most people executed via capital punishment since 1989. The total for the year stands at 1,634. 90% of these deaths came from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran; China has not been included in these statistics.  [Below you will find interactive graph of all nations that does this but before I will show you a country allied to the US who will execute  Gays and Atheists.
Saudi Arabia:


In western countries like the United States we take for granted concepts like freedom of speech and religion and, in recent years, tolerance for the idea that gay people should be treated like everyone else.  In these societies it’s easy to forget that in much of the world the very opposite is true.  In Russia, for example, there is a startling return to the totalitarianism of the former Soviet Union and dissent is punished severely, and it is now illegal in that country to advocate homosexuality (and practicing it can get you killed, while your killer will walk away whistling).  

Moscow Anti-Gay Pride Riot

In Islam-dominated countries Muslims are not allowed free speech, and Muslims who leave their faith (and particularly those who become nonbelievers) are subject to death.  Thirteen of these countries sanction execution for blasphemy: Afghanistan, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.  I have written on this topic before [see “Muslim Atheist” http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2011/03/muslim-atheist.html], but in this post I want to look at current developments on Islamic treatment of both atheists and gays.


1.  Atheists

While the Qur'an claims that Allah demands that apostates be severely punished, it doesn't specify the punishment. Most, though certainly not all, of the religion's scholars decree that death is the appropriate choice. But most apostates in the Muslim world who suffer death aren't killed by the state enforcing laws like those in the thirteen countries above, but by their outraged family and neighbors or by religious authorities self-acting as Thought Police.



Muslims who leave Islam for another religion (say, Christianity) can and have been condemned to death.  In Saudi Arabia the penalty for conversion to Christianity is beheading.  To leave Islam for no religion might strike neighbors as even greater madness. It's one thing to tell your neighbors that they are wasting much of their lives due to an ancient disagreement as to which religion is the right one, and another to state that 90% of the population of the entire planet has this same unfortunate delusion.  


On January 14, 2014, in Bangladesh two atheist bloggers were brutally attacked and beaten by Islamic fundamentalists, both surviving the attempt only to have one of them hacked to death a month later.  

Avijit Roy

When prominent Bagladeshi author/blogger Avijit Roy published an anti-religious book entitled “The Virus of Faith” he was so hounded that he fled to the United States and wrote about his persecution in an article in Free Inquiry (the leading freethinker magazine in the USA); see  https://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php/articles/7145. In February of this year he and his wife returned to Bangladesh to attend a book fair, and they were dragged from a bicycle rickshaw and hacked at with machetes, killing Roy and critically wounding his wife.


In 2012 a Saudi man named Raif Badawi was arrested for insulting Islam on his website, tried and found guilty of apostasy and originally sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes.  When he appealed to the Saudi Supreme Court last year his sentence was increased to ten years and 1000 lashes, plus a fine.  The first 50 lashes were administered on January 9th of this year, and damn near killed him, causing further lashes to be postponed until he was healthy enough to stand them.  His wife asserts that further lashes will kill him, and this harsh punishment has caused an international outcry, which the Saudis have so far ignored.



ISIS has routinely been beheading or shooting those with religious beliefs contrary to its stern view of Islam, and dumping the bodies in mass graves.




2.  Gays

Type “gay executions” into Google and then watch endless videos on YouTube and other websites of gays being shot, thrown from buildings, hung, buried alive, or beheaded.




August 6, 2014.  Two gay Iranian men, Abdullah Ghavami Chahzanjiru and Salman Ghanbari Chahzanjiri, were hanged for their sexual orientation. Their deaths are part of a wave of executions in Iran, with more than 400 in the first half of 2014 alone, according to the NGO Iran Human Rights.  In July of last year a Saudi Arabian man has been sentenced to three years in jail and 450 lashes after he was caught using Twitter to arrange dates with other men.



May 20, 2015

Saudi Arabia ad: “Wanted” Sword Executioner (soaring rates) //Amnesty Calls it Barbaric




RIYADH: Saudi Arabia advertised vacancies for eight executioners today after beheading nearly as many people since the start of the year as it did in the whole of 2014. 

The civil service ministry said that no qualifications were necessary and that applicants would be exempted from the usual entrance exams. 

It said that as well as beheadings, the successful candidates would be expected to carry out amputations ordered by the courts under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law. 

Amputation of one or both hands is a routine penalty for theft. Drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death. 

Most executions are carried out by beheading, but a few are carried out by firing squad, stoning or crucifixion. 

All are carried out in public and video footage sometimes appears on the Internet despite a ban on filming. 

In January, gruesome footage was posted of a Burmese woman protesting her innocence before being beheaded by a swordsman on a public street in the Muslim holy city of Mecca. 

Ignoring her screams, the white-robed executioner forces her to lie down on the ground, near a pedestrian crossing, then severs her head with a curved sword. 

The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said that Layla bint Abdul Mutaleb Bassim had been sentenced to death for killing her husband's six-year-old daughter. 

The vacancies were advertised on the ministry's website in the "religious jobs" section. 

Last year, Saudi Arabia executed 87 people, according to an AFP tally, ranking it third in the world for use of the death penalty. 

Already this year, it has put 85 people to death in what human rights group Amnesty International has described as a "macabre spike". 

Today, a convicted serial rapist of young girls was beheaded in Riyadh, SPA reported. 

The interior ministry says the death penalty is an important deterrent. 

But on a visit to Riyadh this month, French President Francois Hollande said capital punishment “should be banned".


~~~~~~Amnesty International Calls it Barbaric~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~By Stephen Rogers Irish Examiner Reporter



Amnesty International has condemned as “grotesque” the Saudi Arabian government’s advertisement for eight executioners to carry out its public beheadings.
The advert on its civil service appointment system says the person will not need to have any specific qualifications and that the successful candidate will be remunerated at the lower end of the civil service pay scale.
Applicants will also be expected to carry out amputations on those found guilty of lesser offenses.
the punishment for theft is to have a hand cut off.
Saudi Arabia executed almost 90 people last year — already in 2015 it has put 84 people to death for a range of crimes including murder, drug trafficking, and rape.
Amnesty International has laid much of the blame for the upsurge in executions on King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, who came to power at the start of the year.
Colm O’Gorman, of Amnesty International Ireland, said: “There is something particularly grotesque about a job advert that seeks to recruit someone whose role involves the deliberate killing of people.
“Saudi Arabia has the world’s third-highest recorded executions, last year putting at least 90 people to death. Now they are looking to recruit more executioners, people who will kill women and men in cold blood, by beheading them in public executions.
“Hiring more executioners is a significant regressive step and shows us that Saudi Arabia seems determined to continue with this form of punishment.”

May 15, 2015

N.Korea’s Little Kim Jon Un Executes Defense Minister With Anti Aircraft Gun


                                                                           
                                                               


                                                                        
N.Korea anti aircraft gun
Seoul: North Korea has publicly executed the country’s defense minister after the regime accused him of treason, according to reports from South Korea.
Hyon Yong Chol was killed by fire from an anti-aircraft gun at a military school in front of hundreds of people in Pyongyang, the South Korean Intelligence Agency was reported to have told parliament members in a closed door session.
Hyon was executed because he expressed discontent towards leader Kim Jong Un, and failed to follow Kim's orders on several occasions, according to Kim Gwang-lim, chairman of the National Assembly Intelligence Committee and a lawmaker with the Saenuri Party who attended the briefing.

What led to execution?

The timing of Hyon's execution is unclear. Reports suggest he was killed "around April 30." The last mention of Hyon in North Korean state media was on Wednesday, April 29, when he was reported to have attended a performance of the Moranbong Band at the People's Palace of Culture, earlier that week.
Lawmaker Kim Gwang-lim said the South Korean spy agency said that Hyon was executed without trial within two to three days of being arrested. If the dates are correct, they suggest Hyon's fall from grace was swift and decisive.
    Just last month, Hyon led a North Korean delegation to Moscow for a seminar on global security.
    Kim himself had been scheduled to go to mark Victory Day commemorations on May 9. However, in late April,Russian officials announced that he had pulled out to attend to "domestic issues" at home.
    No single incident was said to have led to Hyon's arrest and execution, although Kim Gwang-lim said, along with general neglect of duty, Hyon was seen nodding off during a meeting organized by Kim Jong Un.
    A spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry said the government considered the execution to be another display of "fear politics" in North Korea.
    "Our government views that the purge is promoting the solidification of the only monolithic leadership of Kim Jong Un by creating atmosphere of fear," said Lim Byeong-cheol.
    Report: North Korea executes defense minister
    Report: North Korea executes defense minister 

    Who was Hyon?

    Hyon was a longtime Kim family loyalist who spent years working under North Korea's former leader Kim Jong Il as a high-ranking military official.
    His career continued after power transferred to the younger Kim upon the death of his father in 2011.
    "This is a big deal. He was a survivor," said Charles Armstrong, Professor of Korean studies at Columbia University.
    "He was from Kim Jong Un's father's regime. He made it through the transition. He was a very high profile military man." 
    According to a biography published on the blog North Korea Leadership Watch, Hyon's political career started in 2009 when he was elected to the 12th Supreme People's Assembly.
    As a four-star General, he was elected to the Workers' Party Central Committee in September 2010. The Central Committee is a group of around 300 high-ranking officials, which elect members of North Korea's top leadership team, who run the country under Kim.
    From July 2012 to May 2013, Hyon served as the Chief of the Korean People's Army General Staff before being promoted to Colonel General, North Korean Leadership Watch said.
    During 2014, Hyon was promoted again to the National Defense Commission (NDC), described as a supreme organ of the state which has authority over the Ministry of People's Armed Forces and Ministry of People's Security.
    "He was someone that one would have thought would remain very high up in the regime. So this kind of a shake up, particularly if he’s been executed, is quite a remarkable turn of events," Armstrong said. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been accused of ordering the executions of as many as 15 top officials so far this year. However, during a rare trip by CNN to Pyongyang last week, a top official dismissed the allegation as "malicious slander."
    "Especially because they tried to link the alleged statement to the august name of our Supreme Leader Marshall Kim Jong Un," said Park Yong Chol, the deputy director of the DPRK Institute for Research into National Reunification. 
    However, he did not deny that executions take place for crimes of treason or subversion: "It is very normal for any country to go after hostile elements and punish them and execute them."
    In December 2013, North Korean news agency KCNA confirmed that Kim's uncle Jang Song Thaek had been executed for trying to overthrow the state. The report described Jang as "despicable human scum" and "worse than a dog." 

    Defector: Kim to go in three years

    One of the most senior defectors to escape North Korea in recent years has told CNN that the spate of top-level executions has created a climate of fear among regime insiders.
    North Korean defector: Kim Jong Un out within 3 years
    North Korean defector: Kim Jong Un out within 3 years 
    "During his first three years in power, hundreds of the elite have been executed," said Park, who CNN has agreed not to identify to protect his friends and relatives still in Pyongyang. Much of what Park tells us cannot be independently verified, as North Korea is one of the most closed and repressive countries on Earth. 
    Park said Kim's brutality had undermined his power base, and predicted Kim would be replaced as leader within three years.
    The prospect of potential instability in North Korea worries experts who are concerned about the country's nuclear weapons.
    "There are quite a number -- at least a dozen -- nuclear weapons," said Armstrong of Columbia University. "We want to make sure we know who's in control of them."
    Armstrong said Kim differed from his father and grandfather, who in past purges merely pushed people aside.
    "Kim Jong Un has shown a ruthless side that we haven't seen since his grandfather consolidated power back in the 50s and 60s -- going after rivals and potential rivals and having them executed."
    He said the structure of the North Korean political system made it difficult to mount any kind of challenge to Kim's leadership -- but "anything is possible."
    "Particularly when we see these high-ranking people (like Hyon) bumped off like this. There might be a group who feel that they’re better off under a different leadership," Armstrong said.
    This news Report By KJ Kwon and Hilary Whiteman, on CNN

    May 3, 2015

    Executions on the US: Electrocution,Lethal Injection and Nitrogen Gas



                                                                              

    Increasingly, US death penalty states are no longer content to have just one method of execution on the books. Instead, with a persistent shortage of lethal injection drugs, fueled in part by the European Union's ban on their export, American states are putting in place "back-up" methods of execution.

    In 2014, a Tennessee law took effect permitting the use of the electric chair if lethal injection drugs are unavailable. On March 23, 2015, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill authorizing the use of firing squads if lethal injection drugs can't be procured. And on April 17, 2015, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed into law a bill allowing for the use of nitrogen gas if the US Supreme Court rules the state's lethal injection protocol unconstitutional.

    In the last decade American executions were put on hold for a short time in the lead up to the US Supreme Court's decision in Baze v. Rees, an Eighth Amendment challenge to Kentucky's three-drug lethal injection protocol. Executions are now on hold again in some states while the Supreme Court considers Glossip v. Gross—a challenge to Oklahoma's three-drug lethal injection protocol.

    The US Constitution's Eighth Amendment contains just sixteen words: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. "At the heart of challenges to capital punishment—and to methods of execution in particular—has been the meaning of the Eighth Amendment's last six words, popularly known as the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause.

    In a prior book, Cruel and Unusual:The American Death Penalty and the Founders' Eighth Amendment, I detailed the Eighth Amendment's history. What I found: the Founding Fathers were not all that gung-ho about capital punishment. In fact they rejected England's "Bloody Code", embraced Enlightenment-era writings and were fascinated by the potential of the penitentiary system to eliminate harsh punishments.

    Thus far legal challenges to methods of executions have not fared well before the nation's highest court. In Wilkerson v. Utah, the US Supreme Court approved the use of public firing squads. In In re Kemmler, the Supreme Court gave its approval to electrocution, a then-novel method. And in another ruling decades later, in Louisiana ex rel. Francis v. Resweber, the Court found yet another electrocution constitutional even though an earlier attempt had been botched that failed to kill the same inmate in the electric chair.

    The Supreme Court's 2008 ruling in Baze—upholding the constitutionality of Kentucky's lethal injection protocol—was only the most recent rejection of an Eighth Amendment challenge to a mode of execution. In that case the Court found no constitutional violation as regards the administration of a deadly cocktail of drugs: sodium thiopental, an anesthetic to cause unconsciousness; pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant to paralyze the inmate's diaphragm and lungs; and potassium chloride, to induce a cardiac arrest.

    Now the State of Oklahoma—with its own lethal injection protocol under scrutiny following the botched execution of Clayton Lockett—has authorized nitrogen gas as a new method of execution. Designed to asphyxiate condemned inmates by forcing them to breathe pure nitrogen through a gas mask, death by nitrogen is just the newest in a long line of execution methods stretching back to the Dark Ages. According to Representative Mike Christian, one of the Oklahoma bill's authors, the new method—put in place in case the state's lethal-injection protocol is struck down—is designed to ensure "a humane, quick and painless death." "The person will become unconscious within eight to ten seconds," Representative Christian explains, saying that death will ensue "a few minutes later."

    But what sentiments like these ignore is that whatever the method of execution--hanging, firing squad, electric chair, lethal gas or lethal injection--the end result is exactly the same: the inmate's death. In their desperate search for a Plan B to lethal injections, states like Tennessee, Utah and Oklahoma are only changing the means to kill an inmate, not altering the ultimate outcome. Ironically, in cases like Hope v. Pelzer and Jackson v. Bishop, non-lethal corporal punishments have already been found to be "cruel and unusual punishments."

    In the founding era, American lawmakers were greatly influenced by a now-obscure Italian philosopher, Cesare Beccaria of Milan. At age twenty-six, Beccaria published Dei delitti e delle pene, translated into English in 1767 as On Crimes and Punishments. That book called for proportionality between crimes and punishments and argued for the abolition of torture and capital punishment. Among its core principles, ones embraced by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Americans: the certainty of punishment is more important than its severity and any punishment that goes beyond "absolutely necessity" is "cruel" and "tyrannical."

    History reveals that American revolutionaries like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Dr. Benjamin Rush were looking for ways to make punishments less cruel—and the society's laws less sanguinary. Jefferson and Madison sought to drastically curtail the number of capital offenses in Virginia and Dr. Benjamin Rush—a signer of the Declaration of Independence—sought to eliminate the death penalty entirely, calling death "an improper punishment for any crime." William Bradford—one of Madison's closest friends and Pennsylvania's and then the country's attorney general—wrote a whole report titled An Enquiry How Far the Punishment of Death Is Necessary in Pennsylvania (1793).

    For America's founders, the necessity for a punishment was key. Indeed, James Madison—in his own words—was attracted to "penitentiary discipline" as a substitute for what he called "the cruel inflictions so disgraceful to penal codes." In responding to a letter from a Kentucky physician, Madison wrote: "I should not regret a fair and full trial of the entire abolition of capital punishment by any State willing to make it." Toward the end of his life, Jefferson—a longtime reader of On Crimes and Punishments, having copied more than two dozen passages from it into his commonplace book—penned these words in the 1820s: "Beccaria and other writers on crimes and punishments had satisfied the reasonable world of the unrightfulness and inefficacy of the punishment of crimes by death."

    A return to a core principle that any punishment that goes beyond "absolute necessity" is "cruel" and "tyrannical"—a notion embraced by Beccaria, Montesquieu and America's founders themselves—leads to the inexorable conclusion that the death penalty is no longer necessary. In 21st-century America, in our own age and time, the reality is this: life-without-parole (LWOP) sentences and maximum-security prisons are now readily available as a substitute for state-sanctioned executions.

    By authorizing death by nitrogen gas, the State of Oklahoma—like other states trying to cling to the use of executions—has only doubled-down on a barbaric and antiquated, not to mention increasingly rare, practice. The number of murderers serving LWOP sentences now far eclipses the number of American death row inmates, and today's death penalty has a lot more to do with geography, race and the quality of one's counsel than with the nature of the crime. No California death row inmate has been executed in years, with a federal judge in that state having declared the death penalty unconstitutional, though it's a different story, of course, in places like Texas.

    A recent study found that death sentences are heavily concentrated in a tiny fraction of the country's counties. According to Robert J. Smith, a DePaul University law professor, one percent of US counties account for roughly forty-four percent of all of the country's death sentences. The Death Penalty Information Center's 2013 report, The 2% Death Penalty, similarly found that more than half of all US executions are coming out of just two percent of the nation's counties. That is hardly "Equal Justice Under Law."

    In fact, capital punishment has long been administered in a racially discriminatory and arbitrary manner. The race of the victim still often determines who lives and who dies, and death sentences—the product of death-qualified juries, in which death penalty opponents are systematically excluded from service—are being imposed in as arbitrary a manner as they were before death penalty laws were struck down in Furman v. Georgia. With the rise and increasing use of LWOP sentences, the sporadic use of executions by a handful of mostly southern locales should no longer be tolerated by the US Supreme Court.

    No matter the method of killing—no matter the number of methods of execution—the death penalty's madness, with its ever-present potential to claim the lives of the wrongfully convicted, seems as clear as ever. Executions are not needed to ensure the public's safety; the incarceration of violent offenders in Supermax prisons can achieve that objective.

    As for the Eighth Amendment itself, it is regularly read by the US Supreme Court to protect prisoners from harm, including non-lethal harms. The Eighth Amendment, in fact, can never be read in a principled manner until the death penalty goes the way of the pillory and the whipping post and is declared unconstitutional.

    Until that day comes, hopefully sooner rather than later, the US Supreme Court's Eighth Amendment jurisprudence will continue to have a split personality, just like the character in Robert Louis Stevenson's novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

    John D. Bessler is associate professor of law at the University of Baltimore School of Law and an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. He is the author of The Birth of American Law: An Italian Philosopher and the American Revolution (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2014), which received first prize in the American Association of Italian Studies Book Award competition (18th/19th century category) and which is also a finalist in the IndieFab book award competition for non-fiction.

    Suggested citation: John Bessler, The Method to the Madness: The Electric Chair, Lethal Injection and Now Nitrogen Gas, JURIST - Academic Commentary, May 1, 2015, http://jurist.org/forum/2015/04/john-bessler-death-penalty.php

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